When you think of businesses going digital, the chances are good that you’re imagining a busy, bustling city office. But digital adoption has the potential to bring huge gains in revenue for rural businesses and enterprises in locations that are remote or difficult to access.
According to two recent studies led by Amazon, digital adoption could add between 4% and 8.8%,or the equivalent of up to $31 billion, annually to the rural economy in the UK, and an extra 21% or $84.5 billion each year in the US.
These are the businesses that tend to struggle compared with those in urban areas. They are located further from their natural customer base and can’t quickly tap into digitally-savvy local talent.
They are typically home or family-run businesses owned by older people, with fewer employees and a lower annual turnover than the average enterprise. Digital adoption promises to vastly expand their revenue.
What is Digital Adoption?
Digital adoption can be defined as using all your digital tools to their fullest extent. It’s more than digital transformation, which involves adding digital processes to your company.
It requires making sure that all your employees understand how to make the most out of your digital tools and to use them in smart ways.
For example, a CRM has the potential to transform the way that a business interacts with its customers, raising conversion rates, reducing churn, and increasing loyalty.
But if your employees only use it as a repository for customer contact information, they haven’t reached digital adoption for this tool and its hue benefits are going unused.
How Can Digital Adoption Help Rural Enterprise?
Digital adoption brings a number of benefits to rural businesses.
#1 Increase Customer Reach
With better digital marketing automation tools, rural enterprises can reach more customers around the world. Fast, responsive, intuitive websites and simple online ordering makes it easier for customers to find and do business with rural enterprises.
#2 Improve Customer Experience
Rural SMEs can use digital customer service platforms and AI-powered customer support solutions like chatbots to raise the customer experience.
By taking advantage of big data analytics, businesses can identify the factors that cause churn and run effective loyalty programs to raise customer retention.
Digital adoption also brings more benefits to last-mile customer experience. With better solutions and the ability to handle them properly, rural businesses can streamline and speed up shipping, delivery, and returns.
#3 Boost Productivity
Rural businesses that reach digital adoption gain the benefits of greater employee productivity. Employees who understand the tools that they use every day are more efficient, less frustrated, and collaborate with greater ease.
Digital adoption will also enable businesses to tap into remote talent with new digital skills.
#4 Expand and Improve Product Offering
Digital adoption allows rural businesses to improve process efficiency and standardize product quality. With AI-powered analytics, they can investigate consumer demand for new products, expand their product offering, and use digitization to accelerate time to market.
#5 Support Data-Driven Decisions
With digital adoption, rural businesses can unlock the potential of AI and machine learning to provide better data-driven decision making. They’ll be better placed to compete with their rivals who have already reached digital adoption and can make smarter business decisions.
How to Improve Digital Adoption for Rural Enterprises
Rural businesses already know that going digital can help increase their revenue, but they don’t know how to go about it.
They have been held back by slow internet speeds, a lack of local training options for existing employees, and a general shortage of digital talent when compared with larger urban centers.
In both the US and the UK, there are three main ways to accelerate digital adoption.
Businesses suffer from a lack of reliable high-speed internet connectivity. Governments need to help them increase the speed and quality of their digital connection, as well as guiding enterprises to the best solutions for cloud computing, secure data storage, and high-speed 5G internet.
Digital adoption means supporting enterprises to choose the right tools and make the most of the ones they have already, such as e-commerce platforms, social media marketing automation, and business apps.
Increase Digital Training
Training employees to use digital solutions to their fullest extent goes hand in hand with improving access to those solutions.
Over half of respondents to the UK study say they face some kind of skills-related obstacle to reaching full digital adoption. 14% say they struggle to find appropriate digital training for their existing workforce.
Improve the Digital Talent Pipeline
As well as a lack of training for existing employees, rural enterprises also face a huge challenge in recruiting new talent with the necessary digital skills.
There simply isn’t the same local talent base. Businesses need resources to prepare local tech talent, so that they can keep up with the digital curve.
Digital Adoption Promises Much for the Rural Economy
Digital adoption holds the potential to drastically increase revenue for the rural economy, through better customer reach and experience, improved productivity, expanded product offering, and better data-driven decision-making.
With better access to reliable, high-speed internet, advanced training for existing employees, and a stronger talent pipeline for future digital talent, rural enterprises can speed their way towards digital adoption.